Dr. Delores Cooper Shockley Photo Credit: Purdue College of Pharmacy

The Minority Engineering Program Remembers the Legacy of:

Dr. Dolores Cooper Shockley Ph.D. '55 - A Historical Moment for Purdue and the Nation

Dolores completed her early education at Booker T. Washington in Clarksdale, Mississippi until the tenth grade. She left home to attend Mary Holmes College, a private high school for black girls, located in West Point, Mississippi. After graduating in 1947, she enrolled in Pharmacy school at Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana, where she earned her B.S. in 1951 and was number one in her class. She continued her education at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, where she received her M.S. in 1953, and her Ph.D. in Pharmacology in 1955 at the age of 25. Dr. Shockley was the first black woman to receive a Ph.D. in any discipline from Purdue University. Dr. Shockley was the first black woman in the United States to receive a Ph.D. in Pharmacology. 

While obtaining her Ph.D., Dr. Shockley accepted a faculty position as an Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1954. Dr. Shockley took a leave of absence in 1955 to complete a Fulbright Fellowship at the Pharmacology Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark. Dr. Shockley continued her research in New York City at Albert Einstein College of Medicine from 1959-1962 then returned to Meharry Medical College as an Associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology where she worked for 26 years. In 1988, she became the first black woman to chair a pharmacology department at an accredited medical school in the United States. After an accomplished career, Dr. Shockley retired from Meharry Medical College as Professor Emerita in 2005.

Her career involved research, teaching, and involvement in many organizations. She worked tirelessly to help others for more than 50 years. She loved to see her students succeed. After her retirement, she continued to serve on many national committees including NIH, NSF, NRC, and FDA. She held offices in the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET). The society established a travel award in her honor for student(s) to attend the national meeting biennially. Other distinguished honors include, the Dolores C. Shockley Lecture and Partnership Award which was inaugurated at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Department of Pharmacology in 2009 and is presented biennially, and Distinguished Alumna of Purdue, Old Master at Purdue. 

She spent over 50 years as a dedicated and active member of St. John A.M.E. church where she served as a loyal member on the Carnation Board, Lay Organization, Booster Club, and Women's Missionary Society. She was also very passionate about attending and participating in bible study classes.

Dolores will always be remembered for her humble and loving spirit. She loved her children and grandchildren and encouraged them in all they did. She believed in never giving up and being your best self in whatever your goals and aspirations are in life. Her inspirational quote, "Aim for the stars, spread your wings and fly. You never know what is possible until you try." Delores was a prolific reader. She was well versed and could contribute commentary on any subject. Gardening was truly one of her favorite hobbies. Plants, whether indoor or outdoor, thrived at the touch of Dolores' green thumb and sweet hands. At home, chef Delores enjoyed cooking, especially grilling. She adored and looked forward to playing board games with her children, grandchildren, and a circle of friends at every opportunity.

Her love of life, and energetic spirit, definitely kept her busy with professional and social organizations in her community, participating in the Meharry Internal Review Board (IRB) and AARP. She was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.  (Published in Tennessean from October 13 to October 14, 2020)

In her lineage are notable engineering graduates, including Fred Cooper, co-founder of the Purdue Society of Black Engineers, and Michelle Cooper, first female National Chair of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). 

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